For Declo, Idaho Teachers, It’s The Evaluation That Matters, Not The Performance

"What's the big deal?"

“So what’s the big deal? She’s a great teacher!”*

Ethics Alarms has been light of late on tales of public schools  intimidating, indoctrinating and abusing children, all while teaching them that too often adult authority does not deserve the respect it demands. Of course, there is a reason for the relative dearth of horror stories from that sector: school is out.

Never fear, however: somewhere, some school administrator is embarrassing the education profession…in  Idaho, for instance, where Summer Larsen, a fourth-grade teacher at Declo Elementary School in Declo, Idaho, had the brilliant idea of having students who made their reading proficiency goals punish those who did not by drawing on the their faces with felt-tip markers.

After hearing from parents of defaced children, the Cassia County School District filed a formal complaint against Larsen with the Idaho State Department of Education’s Professional Standards Commission. Nonetheless, though the complaint is still pending, Larsenwas rehired for the 2013-2014 year based on teacher evaluations performed by the school’s principal, now retired. A Cassia County school board member has explained that “the evaluation recommended rehiring Larsen. The evaluation was done appropriately and professionally and supported that decision…based on those evaluations, we make our decisions to rehire or not.”

I see. So what a teacher actually does is less important to the school board than a recommendation made before she did it.

If a teacher induces other students to assault and batter classmates—for that is what unconsented drawing on someone’s face is—she is encouraging bullying. She is abusing power. She is showing atrocious judgment, and she may be breaking the law. On that basis, any sane school board would fire her for cause. No competent school board would consider rehiring such a teacher, unless evidence surfaced that she had been forced to have her students draw on their classmates because her parents were being held at machete-point by Bolivian terrorists who want to see American kids magic-marked.

The Cassia County school board is neither competent, nor sane. It sanctions child abuse. Parents who continue to send their children to schools governed by such an unethical philosophy are irresponsible, and putting their kids at risk.

* Note: This is not a photo of one of Summer’s abusees. As far as I know…


Pointer: Fark

Facts:Opposing ViewsMagic Valley

Graphic: Break

17 thoughts on “For Declo, Idaho Teachers, It’s The Evaluation That Matters, Not The Performance

  1. I remember summer reading goals.. And no one that I knew dare miss the requisite number of book reports out of fear of invoking the Sisters’ wrath…The pain was real.

    What this teacher did was to subcontract her corporal punishment out to minors, thereby exonerating herself of school rules prohibiting such (her line of thinking, not mine).

    Unethical? sure. Ineffective? probably not.

    • Oh and the School District is not behaving unethically… They have a process to follow just like any other organization… Reacting harshly and immediately to a teacher’s mistake will only result in costly legal fees.

      • It shouldn’t though. Processes do not exist to enslave people to them so that when obvious exceptional events occur those people cannot react appropriately to them.

        The only reason costly legal fees would exist is because a section of society loves to be able to play the “you aren’t being fair to me” game when a process does get set aside to deal with exceptional cases. It only allows people to avoid responsibility by give up responsibility to an artificial and arbitrary process.

      • The decision to rehire this teacher is cowardly. If there is credible evidence that she commissioned the abuse of kids in her class should not have been rehired. Bullying is a problem that teachers must be part of the solution to, not part of the problem itself.

        Sometimes paying those “costly legal fees” is the ethical thing to do – a grievance filed to keep a teacher like this in the classroom would be one of those times. Let her lawyer argue that this “a teacher’s mistake” and make the case that she should continue in the classroom. The District, the elected representatives of the parents and the administrators they employ, need to step up.

        “I am powerless to lead and to do the right thing because someone might file a grievance or a lawsuit and that will be expensive.” How much tolerance should we have for that kind of leadership? None.

      • To break my guideline about using sarcasm:

        Right. One should never be shrink from rehiring a child abuser as a 4th grade teacher when there are financial disadvantages involved with doing the right thing.

    • It would maybe be effective if the only problem is that the child has not been motivated (and at the same time responds well to public shaming). If the child has Dyslexia, for example, no amount of effort on his part makes any difference. That makes this teacher’s actions all the more cruel. Fourth grade is the time when the majority of kids with Dyslexia are diagnosed, at least in the public school system. This could very well be the case for these children. The number of very successful people with dyslexia has been documented, as well as the number of prison inmates with dyslexia. It can go either way. Of course there are a lot of factors to consider, but I would guess children with teachers like Ms. Larsen will be likely go the prison route.

  2. Where is Larson from originally? People in Idaho have been complaining for years that Californians have come in and ruined Idaho.
    Another thing. Public schools are notorious for forcing kids to fit is a box like good little comrades. Different levels of intelligence,creativity,culture,economic background,anything that would make the child different from the “norm” is not to be tolerated. If those kids failed to measure up because they had a hard time intellectually rather than goofing off,this punishment is especially bad.

    • I dunno, there’s something poetic about her being subjected to the same abuses she heaped upon others.

      But as the child of a woman who only this year retired from a career as a grade-school teacher, I think I am safe in saying that no. No this woman could never be a good teacher. She may be able to hit the needed points on the evaluation metric, and thus might be be able to teach, but she will never be a good teacher. Her judgement is absolutely flawed at a most basic level, and she should never, ever be trusted with any authority over children. Ever.

      I’ll share this tale with my mom and see what she has to say, but I suspect she will agree with me.

  3. My God, all these comments are as inane as the conduct of this teacher and the school board. This teacher is a psycho and the school board members are idiots. Was this woman making the good readers turn the others into little Al Jolsons? Horrible.

    Jack’s conclusions are correct. There’s nothing more to be said about this.

  4. I read the article from the link Jack posted as well as some of the comments that followed it. I am stunned by the number of commenters who claimed that this was no big deal because the students “chose” what their punishment would be; both beforehand and afterward. They’re fourth graders! What nine year old child, when surrounded by a group of his peers, along with an adult in a position of authority, actually feels he has the power and the autonomy to choose anything? This was bullying plain and simple. And it’s disgusting.

  5. Everyone’s idea of suffering is different. Having someone mark my face would have been preferable to an hour of extreme boredom in some stuffy classroom. After 2 decades in education, I still feel like that. It’s just that complaints of “I don’t care about reading….the teacher is strict, etc.” are too book worn, and fall on deaf ears. But when something is somewhat unusual for a classroom, like this, it becomes the fuel needed to mount a rebellion.

  6. I think writing on the face of a kid is abusive, and I would lose it if my kid came home that way.
    The teacher is an idiot and so are her superiors.

  7. She should be fired. Her judgement is atrocious. No sane parent would allow their child to be in her class. No child should be forced to be in her class. Idaho teacher pay is very low. I guess their standards are correspondingly low, but even at that there’s bound to be a teacher with good sense to replace her.

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